(ANNews) – UCP leader Jason Kenney’s recent remarks about selling off crown lands if his party wins the next provincial election, demonstrated his total lack of understanding about government’s duty to consult with Indigenous peoples and his lack of regard for Treaty Rights in Alberta, says Treaty 8 First Nations Grand Chief Arthur Noskey.
During an opposition panel at the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) fall convention in Edmonton, Kenney said that the UCP would consider selling off a swath of Crown land in Peace River Country, about 488 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, to help plug Alberta’s economic hole.
“It’s something I’m seriously looking at … to generate some Crown asset sales to help deal with our deficit, but also as a way to grow the economy by turning what is currently unproductive land into productive agricultural land,” Kenney told media after the meeting.
Grand Chief Noskey slammed the UCP leader for his remarks and penned a statement that was read by Alberta’s Indigenous-Crown Relations Minister in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday December 6, 2018.
In the statement, he commended the NDP for it’s recent work with the Indigenous peoples of Alberta and provided some background information on the history of Treaty in Alberta.
He wrote, “Treaty No. 8 was agreed to in 1899 between the Dene, Beaver and Cree Peoples and the Crown, Queen Victoria. This Treaty agreement ensured that our ways of life would continue as if we never entered Treaty. In 1930 the Alberta Natural Resource Transfer Act was passed without Free, Prior, Informed Consent of the peoples of Treaty No. 8, in contradiction of the Treaty agreement with the Crown.”
Grand Chief Noskey explained that finally in 2016, Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta signed a Protocol Agreement with the Province of Alberta “to establish a mutually productive relationship based on collaboration and cooperation, whereas the Government of Alberta respects the Treaty and Aboriginal rights of the First Nations of Treaty 8 as recognized and affirmed by Section 35 of the Constitution Act.”
He expressed concern however, that Jason Kenney in his UCP platform announced plans to “generate some Crown asset sales to help deal with our deficit” if he becomes Premier of Alberta.
Noskey wrote: “In 2005, the Supreme Court in Mikisew ruled that there is a Duty to Consult First Nations. Mikisew Cree First Nation is a Treaty 8 First Nation and perhaps Jason Kenney and his United Conservative Party should understand and respect our Treaty and the relationship with the Crown before making such statements.
“We are challenging the Province’s assumption of crown lands. The Treaty people have always had a different position on this. These lands have always been our treasury, our food source, and our pharmacy since time immemorial and are assumed to be unproductive by a man who hopes to be the next Premier of Alberta.
“When it comes to what is considered Crown land, it is critical that any Government understands Treaty. When government looks ahead, does it plan for the next 7 generations as our First Nations do? Or does it see an environment occupied with nothing but Industrial Development? I wonder if Jason Kenney’s intent, if he wins, is to undermine Treaty by dealing on things that affect Treaty without consulting First Nations?
The Grand Chief commended the NDP government. He wrote, “I acknowledge that the Province of Alberta is finally recognizing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and I extend my sincere gratitude to Premier Notley for her leadership and commitment towards its implementation. An important part of that Declaration is Article 19 that refers to “Free, prior and informed consent.”
“Good work has been accomplished by this government and I commend the Premier and the Ministers for their work in resolving the land claim of the Lubicon Lake Band. To complete an 85-year process in their short time in office is an accomplishment to be commended.
“However, there is a current outstanding land claim settlement with the Beaver First Nation that includes the lands as mentioned by JasonKenney. This goes to show how uninformed Jason Kenney and his United Conservative party is, when it comes to the current processes and issues at the tables.”
Grand Chief Noskey concluded his statement by reminding government that “The Treaty 8 First Nations in Alberta are not opposed to economic development, pipelines or beneficial opportunities within the oil and gas sector. We are always open to dialogue regarding sustainable resource development that ensures the protection of our Treaty and Inherent Rights and our way of life.”
Minister Feehan said that he was honoured to read the Grand Chief’s statement and noted that the current NDP government takes Indigenous consultation very seriously. “On our side of the house we respect Indigenous consultation and we don’t take the word lightly,” he said, “and we recognize that past governments have neglected to give it the respect it deserved.
The current provincial government has made real strides in Indigenous relations, added Minister Feehan, including addressing old issues, recognizing and addressing past wrongs and exploring new opportunities and collaborations.
“But government is not perfect,” he said. “We are not perfect. Trust takes time; it takes effort and commitment. All members need to understand that Indigenous consultation is not just required, it is crucial.”
“Consultation is not just an open and closed book. It’s not something to get bogged down by. It’s not something to throw your hands up in the air about and say enough is enough. It’s work, it’s trust, it’s healing, it’s listening and it’s moving forward together. It’s important to me, to the chiefs, to the Indigenous people and it should be important to all Albertans.”
Noskey said that his community wasn’t even approached about the UCP plan and he noted that there is a current outstanding land claim settlement with the Beaver First Nation that includes land in Peace Country.
“That goes to show how uninformed Jason Kenney and his United Conservative Party is when it comes to the current processes and issues at the table,” he wrote.
Minister Feehan said he was“appalled” at Kenney’s understanding of Treaty.
“Whenever we do anything on Crown land … we have to do the consultation with the appropriate FirstNation in that area. That’s just standard policy federally, provincially across the country,” Feehan said.